By Linda Arowolo, BA Anthropology
When children of legendary musicians take up the same profession, there is always a feeling that they will never completely emerge out from under their shadow. Now Seun Kuti definitely put on a performance. From the beginning there was a rhythmic vibrancy that permeated the atmosphere and allowed ‘faaji’ to commence. Adorned in ankara, the back-up singers’ dance steps had the audience engaged. Seun’s songs were filled with political rhetoric ranging from acknowledging African ancestors who paved the way for the so-called “self-made African” to the African dream which spoke of the potential Africans will achieve. His free movement and free thoughts, coupled with Seun enjoying himself in the midst of his organised noise, was something to watch.
However, it didn’t feel like Seun Kuti’s performance, more so an imitation of Fela Kuti. Right down to his movement and “arrogance”, Seun’s composure reeked of a mimic of Fela. Even the over-use of the word “motherfucker” seemed to be a copy of Fela’s mannerism.
Further, the authenticity of his performance was further compromised with his diatribe of the film ‘Black Panther’. He made some valid points regarding the fact that that people were ready to support a fictional African nation and not a real one.
Also, he didn’t need a fictional film to validate his identity and the reason why it was so successful was because Black Panther was produced in a white approved space. He further mentioned that the adults who dressed up in cultural African attire, belonged in the playground and when the white approved opening week was over, the African garb was tossed aside.
My issues with his commentary was his audience was mostly white. A white space where his performance was white approved. I found this to be highly hypocritical. A white audience who was agreeing and cheering with him but had no understanding of the symbolic imagery that Black Panther represented.
Superstructures such as media and entertainment represent social actions and actors. Fiction is a projection of our reality and vice versa. For far too long the only representation of black people in these spaces have been negative stereotypes that have contributed to the marginalisation and anti-blackness of black people globally. Thus, a film that has a completely different narrative and whose focal point is not slavery, colonialism, apartheid and other appalling events is not only necessary, but should become the norm.
Finally, Seun forgot his performance was in a white approved space and his speech pandering to a mostly white audience, perpetuated ignorance which fed into ‘what’s the big deal’ over Black Panther position. An attitude that ignores what the film represents and the actual themes in the film ranging from immigration, displaced people to the psyche and relationships between Africans and black Americans.